ISP Internode gives customers free virus, spam filters

ISP Internode has introduced free virus and spam filters as standard across all of its dial-up and broadband services.

The offering comes just weeks after rival ISP Telstra announced it would provide all of its BigPond customers with a three-month trial of virus and spam filtering software in a bid to curtail the levels of spam hitting its network.

Telstra’s spam and virus filter software products, along with a two-week rebate on users’ monthly usage bills, were offered to BigPond customers as compensation for ongoing e-mail delivery and receipt problems experienced across the BigPond network during October.

The network problems were caused by what the telco described as a massive 20-30 per cent surge in e-mail traffic triggered by the Swen worm.

While Telstra plans to charge users $2.50 per month for access to these filters once the three-month trial period has been completed, Internode managing director Simon Hackett says Internode can provide spam and virus protection to its customers without charging extra for it.

“A lot of ISPs think they can charge more for these services,” Hackett said in a press statement. “Telstra defend their own decision to charge a monthly fee for spam and virus filtering by claiming, on their Web site, that ‘no Australian ISP’ provides this sort of facility without charging extra for it. Our service proves that this is wrong.”

The anti-virus and anti-spam software deployed by Internode scans and ranks incoming e-mails using a “spam rating” system. The spam rating is determined by a set of “demerit points” assigned to various e-mail elements or “fingerprints” which are typically found in spam e-mails. These include specific key phrases, sets of mis-configuration and lies in mail headers, Hackett said.

“The system also computes an overall message ‘checksum’ which it uses to consult an online database of known spam,” he said.

The higher the spam rating given to an e-mail, the more likely it is to be spam.

Internode users are able to configure the threshold level for the spam filter as well as set their own virus tolerance levels. E-mails will be ranked out of 10, with one being the strongest spam filter setting. Those messages which record a higher spam ranking than the user’s specified threshold will be quarantined and held on Internode’s mail servers. Messages which are quarantined will then be deleted after 14 days.

Hackett said the anti-spam filter is based on a system from New Zealand software solutions company NetWin called SmiteSpam, while the anti-virus filtering system is based on a UNIX virus scanning engine from McAfee.

Since launching the e-mail filters across its services last week, Internode has received positive feedback from its customers on a daily basis, Hackett said.

One customer claimed the e-mail filtering system had cut back spam messages from about 100 a day to two, he said.

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